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Don’t Be Afraid of Teaching Slang and Idioms to ESL Students

Don’t Be Afraid of Teaching Slang and Idioms to ESL Students | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Today was awesome! He’s a couch potato. I’m broke. She got ripped off. Chill out! You're so cool!

Slang words and phrases help simplify language and make it more effective. Learning English slang and idioms allows students to engage in a more natural way of communicating. This will help students to improve their fluency and improve their conversation skills.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Shaelagh M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

State of the Problem

There is some debate as to include slang and idioms throughout lesson plans or have single lesson plans focused on slang and idioms.

Regardless of which style the teacher wants to lean towards, there are a few things to things to consider. When devoting an entire lesson plan to teaching slang native English speakers typically do not pile them on top of each other. Teachers should take caution not to teach students to pile them together as it defeats the purpose of speaking English in a more natural way.

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Benefits of Teaching This Vocabulary

On the opposite side, using a single lesson plan will allow for a more thorough teaching of the meaning of words and phrases. No matter which teaching method is used giving a concrete understanding of terminologies will increase the success of using English. In fact, students need to learn about context and meaning so that the learners understand what they mean, giving them the ability to use appropriately as to not lead a conversation astray or inadvertently embarrass themselves.

Teaching slang to ESL students can be tricky so it is advised to keep things simple and basic. Have fun! Keep in mind when a teacher does decide to teach slang and idioms in the classroom it should be approached consciously and strategically while putting their student's cultural and age-appropriate needs above all else.

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Below are some examples of ideas to include in ESA lesson planning when teaching slang to ELS Learners:

  • Word and Meaning guess - Using pictures ex., It’s raining cats and dogs. Barking up the wrong tree. You’re Busted! see if students can guess the meaning, write the words on the board Have students share slang they know in their native language, write them down and their meaning
  • TV Clips - Play clips for students let’s hang out, what’s up? no problem, have them write down the slang words that they heard, talk about the meanings then have students act out the same scene or have them create their own dialog in pairs or groups.
  • Matching Game - be done in groups. Have two sets of cards one with the slang word and one with matching definition. As a class, the words can be written on the board and the class can go over them together to endure proper meaning and usage (encourage students to use them in a phrase).
  • Cue Card Conversation - Have students converse using slang written on cue cards (write the meaning of the cue card on the back as students are still learning)
  • Fill in the missing slang word or sentence re-write activities are great options for the study phase of a lesson. For younger students use a word bank they can choose from.
  • Slang and idioms are fun and rewarding to teach students and students enjoy learning them. It is an easy way to grab student’s attention as well since typically the students will find it interesting and often entertaining. Remember, there is more than one way to skin a cat.

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